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050: Cheese is a living thing with Mansi Jasani (Day 5 SFW2)

Churpi made from dri mo (female counterpart of yak)’s milk acquires a smoky flavour over a fire in Nepal. Tennis player Djocovic invests in Pule - the Serbian “donkey cheese”. Shermanii releases carbon dioxide and carves “eyes” in a Swiss Emmental. A velvety candidum induced rind blooms on the surface of a Brie. Whey from a Jammu Kalari drips slowly out of a dona. Steel needles pave the path for blue rivers in Roquefort. The interlocking basket weave imprints a Spanish Manchego. An Italian takes a loan against a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano in the same town that births the Reggio Emilia education philosophy.

Mansi Jasani’s eyes shone as she spoke with adoration, admiration, and passion about the many sources of milk, bacteria, rennets, salts, environments and time that create over 4000 unique types of cheese around the world. Her nuanced flavour descriptions of an aged cheddar with it's slight sweetness, toasted caramel notes, and nuttiness made all of us in class drool. The first Indian to be inducted into the Guilde des Fromagers, Mansi is a cheesemonger and founder of The Cheese Collective, Mumbai.

Mansi educated us about time consuming (80% of cheese making is “cleaning”) and diligence driven processes behind natural cheeses. She spoke about them akin to a primary care-giver - they need to be washed, patted and flipped over. She explained how cheese is made by adding an acid and rennet to milk, then removing the whey (though coagulation, cutting, cooking, and draining), and further processing it through salting, forming, pressing and ageing. She reminded us that cheeses are “living beings” that need to be handled with attention and nurture.

The proliferation of varieties is made possible by differences in the sources of milk used (cow, goat, camel, drimo), what the cattle are fed, the bacteria in the cheese and the environment, the temperature, the methods for removing whey, the time for ageing amongst others. Natural cheesemaking is an art that requires love, patience, practice and perseverance.

Mansi ended her presentation with tips for buying and storing cheese at home, the emerging artisanal cheese making scene in India (including Rajasthani feta from camel milk), and the unique challenges of running a cheese business in Mumbai. I look forward to attending an in person cheese tasting session with her soon.

Online Lecture as part of "Studying Foods Workshop" conducted on March 11, 2022 by Mansi Jasani, a leader in the "Artisanal Cheese" scene of India.

Further Reading and Resources:

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